Novels set in rural America are hardly ubiquitous in YA literature. Between dystopian trilogies, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and Gossip Girls readalikes, sometimes I wonder if we are leaving the real world behind. This debut is set in rural Wisconsin, in the not too distant past.
As Connie’s review makes clear, The Bird Sisters is not a book for every teen. But it does have appeal factors — a fascinating sibling relationship, a love of animals, coming of age and crucial decisions made in the late teen years. With the right reader, it will hit a deep chord.
I love Rebecca Rasmussen’s story behind the story, how her own family history influenced the characters and setting of the novel. It aches with the same sadness and beauty that infuse her fiction.
Adult/High School–Everyone in town knows that an injured bird should be taken to the elderly Bird Sisters, Twiss and Molly. In this recollection, the sisters recount a long ago summer when everything hinged on one sweet moment of possibility. Their father, unable to fulfill his aspirations as a golf instructor after a car accident renders his game off balance, moves out to live in the barn by himself while their mother carries on. Cousin Bett comes to live with them and brings with her the promise of the outside world. But when the sisters discover that Bett is invited into the barn–off limits to them–they uncover secrets that change the course of their lives forever. This lavishly written story follows the rhythms of their life much as it follows the ebb and flow of their rural Wisconsin community. Episodes from their past follow them through the present as they take in one last bird to repair, only to have it die and toss them back to that time, many years before. Love, loss, choice, and family loyalty are the words these sisters live by. This book, extremely well written with descriptions that drop readers right into the middle of a rural poverty-stricken life, will not appeal to all teen readers. But those who think deeply, who like their reading to be evocative of times past, and who enjoy the play of words to develop a sense of place will enjoy it. The choices Twiss and Milly make to stay together are understandable and compelling, but they are also just plain sad.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA